Kobo Arc review
An affordable, good-quality compact tablet, but it’s undermined by a few small weaknesses
Until now, small tablets have been divided into two clear camps: colour ebook readers, tied down to the manufacturers’ own stores and content offerings; and all-purpose tablets, designed with a more flexible front-end. The Kobo Arc is the first we’ve come across with its feet in both.
On the Kobo and WHSmith website, the Kobo Arc is marketed as an ebook reader with a colour screen. In this regard it’s a direct rival for the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble Nook HD. It comes complete with reading and store apps linked to the Kobo store, which Kobo clearly wants you to buy content from, a fact reinforced by the presence of a recommendations bar running along the bottom of the screen. This recommends Kobo books and other content based on shortcuts and other items you’ve pinned to the homescreen.
Yet, despite this, the Arc bears more similarities to a standard compact Android tablet, such as the Nexus 7, than to a colour ebook reader. Although it’s preloaded with the Kobo store, you’re not tied down in any way. That’s mainly due to the fact that the tablet comes with Google Play preinstalled, meaning it’s entirely possible to run the Amazon Kindle reading app and the Nook app alongside Kobo’s software.
That gives the Arc a major advantage over the Kindle Fire HD, and the front-end is more flexible, too. You can drop links to books, web pages and apps onto the homescreen just as you can with any standard Android tablet.
There are some tweaks, though. The screen scrolls continuously left to right, rather in single, discrete leaps, and a series of large square tiles give access to a series of what Kobo calls “tapestries” – essentially a collection of themed sub-home pages. The tablet comes preloaded with Reading, Entertainment, Social and Browsing tapestries, but you can also set up your own.
The recommendations bar isn’t particularly helpful. None of its suggestions were particularly appropriate, and as they’re mostly a series of plain thumbnail images, it’s difficult to decide whether to tap them or not.
The preloaded Kobo reading app is better. Along with the usual font and background options, Kobo incorporates social networking features, allowing readers to post and read other readers’ comments on the book they’re currently reading. Book stats let you view how many times a book has been read, and even who’s reading it right now.
|Price ex VAT|
|Price inc VAT||16GB, £133 (£160 inc VAT); 32GB, £158 (£190|
|Features & Design||3|
|Value for Money||4|
|Dimensions||120 x 12 x 188mm (WDH)|
|Resolution screen horizontal||800|
|Resolution screen vertical||1,280|
|CPU frequency, MHz||2MHz|
|Upstream USB ports||1|
|Mobile operating system||Android 4.0.4|